Why I fell in love with Christchurch

I always thought Christchurch was a bit predictable.

There are beautiful landscapes, but where is the zing? Are there any surprises?

After living here for nearly a year, I’ve discovered that the city is full of them – here are my seven favorite finds.

The secret bays of the Banks Peninsula

The Banks Peninsula is an amazing place. More than five million years ago, two huge volcanoes began to form a maze of peaks and valleys. Take a look at it on a map and most of us will realize how little we’ve explored. We all know places like Akaroa, but what about secret places like Lavericks Bay?

* 48 hours in Akaroa: dolphin watching, original art and scenic walks in a French-inspired town
* Five family activities in Christchurch
* From soulless to thrilling: why a travel writer changed his tone on Christchurch

Lavericks Bay is home to one of Canterbury's most secluded beaches.

Brook Sabin / Stuff

Lavericks Bay is home to one of Canterbury’s most secluded beaches.

To get there, you’ll descend into the bay on an incredible cliff-lined road, where you’ll find two hideaways on a 1,000-acre sheep farm: a glamping retreat and a cabin. These offer a secluded place to catch up with friends and easy access to the beach, one of the most secluded in Canterbury.

Walk a crater

The boardwalk is only a 30 minute drive from Christchurch.

Brook Sabin / Stuff

The boardwalk is only a 30 minute drive from Christchurch.

The remnants of Lyttleton Volcano have helped form one of Christchurch’s best short walks.

Lyttelton Harbor used to be a caldera, and the Awaroa/Godley Head Loop trail follows the edge of the harbour, which effectively means you are walking on the edge of an ancient crater.

The three-hour walk weaves along a dramatic array of cliffs, past former military vantage points, and takes you to a quaint little beach community at Boulder Bay. Certain features of the boardwalk, such as gun ranges, are temporarily off-limits during the asbestos cleanup.

Very good pizza

The best pizza in Christchurch can be found at Base Woodfired Pizza.

BASE Wood-fired pizza

The best pizza in Christchurch can be found at Base Woodfired Pizza.

I’m a self-confessed pizza enthusiast, who came here after a trip to Italy where we visited some of the top rated pizza places in the world. The problem with tasting authentic Neapolitan-style pizzas is that you realize how often they are slaughtered at home.

If you want to taste real Italian pizza, head to Little High in the city’s CBD. This must-visit food hub is a collection of nine different local restaurants, many of which are family-run. One of them is Base Woodfired Pizza, which has an amazing story behind it. The Thomson family has made a name for themselves in their neighborhood for cooking delicious pizzas. After the September 2010 earthquake in Darfield, the electricity on their street went out, meaning neighbors gathered over wood-fired pizza – and the seeds of a business were born .

Fast forward more than a decade, and Base Pizza is no longer a secret to locals – it’s where you’ll find the best pizza in town. However, if you are passing through and you like pizza, let me save you some time: go directly here.

Hot pools at the beach

He Puna Taimoana is busy on weekends - be sure to book ahead.

Brook Sabin / Stuff

He Puna Taimoana is busy on weekends – be sure to book ahead.

One of Christchurch’s best experiences is just $18.

He Puna Taimoana is a complex of hot saltwater pools built along the beachfront, right next to the city’s famous pier.

Hot pools have a resort-style feel; there are even diffusers in the changing rooms filling the air with all manner of Balinese plants.

The pools range from 26 to 40 degrees which means they are perfect for the cold winter months. The highlight is the sauna, which overlooks the beach with floor-to-ceiling windows, giving it the feel of a luxury spa.

Residents of Christchurch get off-peak access for just $14, while visitors pay $18. Book early online as sessions sell out quickly, especially on weekends.

The pools have also launched a ‘sunrise soak’ session, where you watch the day start with a mocktail in hand.

fluffy hugs

Shamarra Alpacas organizes daily tours.

Brook Sabin / Stuff

Shamarra Alpacas organizes daily tours.

Another must visit in the Banks Peninsula (especially for animal lovers) is Shamarra Alpacas. The sprawling farm has 170 cuties grazing the hills overlooking the harbour.

The tour begins with an introduction to the alpaca and its quirky habits. Spoiler: It’s a passionate group, and males and females are allowed in a single enclosure to mate once a year.

How do they know if she is pregnant? A week later, a male will again be presented to the female. If she starts spitting on him, she’s pregnant.

You are then led into an enclosure of “machos” (males) who quickly gather to snack on food. You can sit among them and get close for hugs and cuddles.

You then head to another enclosure, overlooking the harbour, which is home to hembra (females) and cria (their babies) – this is where all the pretty pictures take place.

A delicious treat

The recently opened Majestic serves an excellent afternoon tea.

Brook Sabin / Stuff

The recently opened Majestic serves an excellent afternoon tea.

For some of New Zealand’s best high tea, you can’t miss the Majestic Cafe, part of the Mayfair Hotel, a new luxury retreat in the city.

The hotel is excellent, and if you indulge in a suite you get plenty of free perks, such as free snacks and unlimited barista-made drinks.

If you have a thing for high tea, be sure to book one at the cafe. Everything on the plate is delicious, from the miniature burger with a sesame brioche bun to the dessert called “The Mayfair Swans”, which has a caramel and vanilla heart. If you have a sweet tooth, you won’t regret it.

You don’t need to stay at the hotel to book a high tea.


The Pink Lady has excellent cuisine.

Brook Sabin / Stuff

The Pink Lady has excellent cuisine.

If you want to go out at night, two of Christchurch’s hottest spots are its rooftop bars.

The Pink Lady is on the seventh floor of Hotel Muse, with a wide range of craft beers, wines, and cocktails. It also has an outstanding “Baja-inspired” menu – don’t go past the fried chicken with a “bang bang” sauce.

On the other side of the city centre, Mr Brightside Rooftop Bar has a cheesy name but a still lively atmosphere overlooking the River Avon.

More information:

Getting There : Air New Zealand flies from all major hubs. See: airnz.co.nz. Jetstar flies from Auckland and Wellington. See: jetstar.co.nz. Sounds Air flies from Blenheim and Wānaka. See: soundair.com.

Play it:

Shamarra Alpacas starting at $25 per child and $50 per adult. See: shamarra-alpacas.co.nz

He Puna Taimoana from $14. See: hepunataimoana.co.nz

Taste Majestic at Mayfair from $55. See: mayfairluxuryhotels.com

Stay there:

Lavericks Bay Cabin from $390 or glamping from $250. See: canopycamping.co.nz

Exclusive travel offer: Treat yourself to a 2-night stay in the Mayfair Suite including breakfast, complimentary drink and gift box, at the brand new boutique hotel in the heart of Christchurch, The Mayfair. Starting at $729 for 2 adults. See: travel-booking.stuff.co.nz/TheMayfair

The author has photographed for Lavericks Bay, but his inclusion in this article was based on merit. This story was produced through an editorial partnership with Tourism New Zealand. Learn more about our partnership content here.

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